ROADSTORIES with Alan Frew April 26th 2018. #2.
Bonjour Montréal! Good morning Montreal.
Woke up to an extremely wet & chilly Montréal with no time for breakfast. We were met in the lobby by Hélène Morin, our rep from Warner Music Canada. She has arranged an extremely full schedule for us today.
I LOVE Montréal. I have been coming to LaBelle Province, since back in my bar days of the 70’s. My band Onyx, played many times up here and of course even further north into the small towns and as far up as Québec City. Those of you who are not familiar with Canada, please note that the Province (the region) is called Québec but there is also a Québec City, which is just another big city like Montréal.
Montréal is the largest city in Canada's Québec province. It’s set on an island in the Saint Lawrence River and named after Mt. Royal, the triple-peaked hill at its heart. Its neighbourhoods range from cobblestoned, French colonial Vieux-Montréal – with the Gothic Revival Notre-Dame Basilica at its centre – to bohemian Plateau. When in Old Montréal, (the older part of the city), it feels so European, feels so cultured, I cannot help but have an almost reverent respect for the “old girl” when I am walking her lovely cobblestoned roads, between the narrow straights of her streets.
Ahhhhh, I give you la Belle Montréal.
We’re staying at, The Hôtel William Gray, in Old Montréal. It’s so great, even though we never truly got the chance to fully appreciate it due to checking in super late and having to leave early in morning. We have already decided however, that in these upcoming Québec dates, May 8-9 10, where we use Montréal as our hub, we will stay here again if available.
So I won’t bore you with each and every radio and TV station we visited but they were all great and all A-listers, important communicators within the Province and all so happy to see us again.
Glass Tiger has had a long and loving relationship with the people of Québec, for many years. We were as popular here as any Anglophone band possibly could be. Fans turned out in their thousands for us, equally as many, if not more, than any of the English speaking provinces. It’s a big deal in Canada to be an anglophone artist as readily accepted as their top Francophone acts. Reacquainting with our French fans is so very important to us and we plan on coming back here as much as possible to perform in the near future.
So, the COOLEST thing happened today. We had just completed our very last interview of a very long day of promo and as we were exiting the CBC building, Hélène stopped to chat with an old colleague. Sam and I thought nothing of it and indeed, we were deep in conversation ourselves. When Hélène returned to join us she said, “That is my old friend, Martin Leclerc, he is working with Petula Clark. Do you know Petula Clark?”
For those of you unfamiliar with Petula Clark, this blog is just not nearly enough space for me to write about her. You MUST, if interested, go on Wikipedia and learn about her. Trying to fit her history in here would be like me trying to write about Lennon & McCartney. Her career is THAT legendary. The main song that she is forever known for however, throughout the world, is a song called, “DOWNTOWN.”
Released in four separate languages in late 1964, "Downtown" was a success in the UK, France (in both the English and the French versions), the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Italy and also Rhodesia, Japan and India. During a visit to London, Warner Bros. executive Joe Smith heard it and acquired the rights for the United States and took it to No. 1 on the American charts in January 1965, and 3 million copies were sold in America alone.
“Downtown" was the first of 15 consecutive Top 40 hits Clark achieved in the United States, including, “My Love” (her second U.S. No. 1 hit), and "Don’t Sleep in the Subway.” The American recording industry honoured her with Grammy Awards for, ”Best Rock & Roll Recording Of 1964 for “Downtown” and for “Best Contemporary (R&R) Vocal Performance Of 1965 for "I Know a Place." In 2004, her recording of "Downtown" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. She has done it all. Seen it all. Lived through it all, in truly amazing fashion.
“Know her? I said. Absolutely I know her. She is British pop Royalty!” “Well then, said Hélène. That is her over there!” And sure enough, this tiny little figure, looking unbelievably stylish, and radiant and who is now, 85 YEARS OLD, was indeed Miss Petula Clark!! 85 years old guys and she has just recorded A NEW ALBUM!! and is over here doing PROMO!!!! “Would you like to meet her?” asked Hélène. Sam too was equally excited but at first we thought no, that we shouldn’t bother her. Then Hélène said, “You only live once!” (I had a flashback to a time when I had the chance to have a private audience with Her Majesty the Queen and for too many reasons to write here I passed on it and have never forgiven myself for it. It remains a sore-point with me.) “Okay, lets do it!” I said, and off we went.
“Miss Clark, what an honour it is to meet you. I am a Glasgow lad, who grew up on you. You are part of the very fabric of my boyhood and it is such a thrill to meet you.”
She smiled at me and humbly thanked me, then, the loveliest thing happened. She must have been taken with the “slang” tone of my accent, because she led into a story about a famous British violinist, called Nigel Kennedy, asking me if I knew of him. I had to come clean and tell her that I do not know Mr Kennedy. Upon hearing that she became a little reluctant to continue her story. I encouraged her though, to please go on with it and she did. She told us of how this famous musician, who lives and functions within the world of opera, and the classics and within the “upper-crust” of High Society has this very “Cockney” accent, which apparently you would never expect to flow out of him when you first meet him. Petula told us that she had just finished a concert in Paris and was backstage in her dressing room when she was told that “His Royal Highness of The Philharmonic World,” wished to come backstage to meet her. She readily accepted and back he came. This is how she told it to me yesterday. “So back he comes, and he enters my dressing room. We exchange greetings and then I ask him, did you enjoy my show?” She then puts on her best Cockney accent to tell me that he then said, “Well.........it wuz fuckin’ brilliant wa’n’t it!” We howled. You could tell she was just one of us. Just a singer working her songs. No airs and graces. Just real. I asked her if she would be so kind as to take a photo with us and she happily complied. Zoom in on her in this photo guys and remind yourself that she is EIGHTY FIVE YEARS YOUNG!!!
Sam and I then took Hélène for a well-deserved bite to eat at the restaurant now made famous by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Barack Obama, called,“Liverpool House.”
The pair met for dinner at the trendy Montreal restaurant, one of a string of establishments owned by celebrity chef, David McMillan. The food is exquisite, the wine list, A++. I had a lobster pasta to die for.
After dinner Hélène dropped us off at the airport and within a couple of hours I was back home. I feel exhausted and a little worse for wear but I am proud of all the work we have put in on this project. Especially Sam and I. We have worked so, so, hard, from the beginnings of recording in Nashville, to the press and promotion required to make people aware of it’s existence, to the touring from Sydney BC to St. John’s, Newfoundland and everywhere in between. When the plane touched down in Toronto I said to Sam, “Well we won’t fail because of our lack of trying.”
And we won‘t. No matter how these next couple of years play out, we are giving this our all. It’s the only way we know how.